Before the appearance of synthetically dyed threads, the colors used in Palestinian embroidery was dictated by the availability of natural dyes. Materials harvested from the earth yielded "reds" (mixing of insects and pomegranate); "dark blues" (indigo plant): "yellow" (saffron flowers, soil and vine leaves); "brown" (oak bark); and "purple" (crushed murex shells).
In testament to the longevity of traditional dyeing methods, threads more than a hundred years old, colored with natural ingredients, are still vivid - in contrast to modern threads which fade quickly.
The same colors were used throughout Palestinian embroidery, with the shade of color depending on local tradition. For example, the subdued burgundy hue of Ramallah embroidery became a sharp and intense red under the Gazan sky.
Even the most cursory survey of Palestinian embroidery makes evident the predominance of the color red - a color rift with symbolism in traditional Palestinian culture. Some interpret the color as a symbol of menstrual, virginal, blood. Certainly, if an unmarried Palestinian girl wore red it would have been tantamount to a public announcement of lost virginity. Other women believe the color red represented joy. Im Wahid... « You see a woman wearing red and you know she is happy. »
Im Wael... « There should always be a boundary between unmarried girls and married women. The thoub is this boundary. If I'm not married, I can't wear red. I can be like married women in other ways: I can be neat and clean, and wear nice clothes with embroidery. But blue, never red! A married woman can wear blue if she wants... But a virgin can never wear red. »